TRIBAL ALERT: Thank You, Tribes

CILS wants to thank all of the California tribes (72) and Indian organizations (11) that signed on to the amicus brief in the Brackeen et al. v. Zinke et al. case that is pending before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The following is a statement from the four defendant tribes that intervened in the case:

We applaud the broad coalition of federal lawmakers, attorneys general from 21 states, and 30 child welfare organizations who have joined 325 Tribal governments and 57 Tribal organizations in filing numerous amicus briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend the Constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

The past 96 hours have witnessed an unprecedented and overwhelming demonstration of support for ICWA, and its constitutionality as a wave of amicus briefs were filed urging the Fifth Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling in Brackeen v. Zinke, which erroneously deemed key provisions of ICWA as being unconstitutional.

Passed more than 40 years ago by Congress, ICWA was designed to reverse decades of cultural insensitivity and political bias that had resulted in one-third of all Indian children being forcibly removed by the government from their families, their tribes and their cultural heritage.

ICWA ensures the best interests and wellbeing of Native American children are protected. ICWA preserves the stability and cohesion of Tribal families, Tribal communities and Tribal cultures. It maintains and reinforces the political and cultural connections between an Indian child and his or her tribe.

Review the amicus brief here.  CILS will continue to keep you updated on the progress of the case.

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TRIBAL ALERT: Deadline for Brackeen et al. v. Zinke Amicus Brief

To All Tribal Leaders:

Time is running out. If your tribe or tribal organization has not yet signed on to the amicus brief in the Brackeen v. Zinke being submitted by NARF, NCIA and over 100 tribes and 15 tribal consortia and Indian organizations please do so now.

Brackeen v. Zinke is a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in which a federal district court judge in Texas recently found ICWA to be unconstitutional. The case is currently on Appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. ICWA has never been challenged as unconstitutional by any state, until now, and this case is therefore of significant concern to tribes, both for its potential effect on ICWA but also on potential ramifications for all of federal Indian law.

To sign on to the brief and/or obtain a copy of the draft brief to review, please send an email to NARF attorneys Dan Lewerenz and Erin Dougherty Lynch at lewerenz@narf.org and dougherty@narf.org. In your email please provides the following:

  1. A statement from an individual (chairperson, executive director, general counsel, etc.) or body (tribal council, board of directors etc.) authorized to do so, asking to be added as a signatory on the brief; and
  2. The full name and correct spelling of the tribe or organization as it should appear on the brief.
  3. For tribal consortia and Indian organizations, we will also need a short 50- to 75-word description of your organization. We can provide examples from other organizations if that is helpful. Tribes do not need to submit such a statement.

There is no cost to join the brief.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Dan Lewerenz at lewerenz@narf.org, Erin Dougherty Lynch at dougherty@narf.org, Dorothy Alther at dalther@calindian.org, or any CILS office.

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TRIBAL ALERT: Due Date for Brackeen et al. v. Zinke Amicus Brief

To All Tribal Leaders:

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has just issued the 5thCircuit Court of Appeals briefing schedule. The United States’ and tribal defendants’ Opening Brief and all supporting (amicus) briefs are due on January 14, 2019. 

NARF’s deadline for signing on to the amicus brief will be end-of-day Thursday, January 10, 2019.  NARF expects to circulate a draft on Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

Any tribal nation, inter-tribal organization, and ICWA organization interested in signing on to the amicus brief can contact Dan Lewerenz at lewerenz@narf.org and Erin Dougherty Lynch at dougherty@narf.org at NARF.  You can also contact Dorothy Alther at dalther@calindian.org or at 760-746-8941, or any CILS office for more information.   

There is no need to submit a Resolution or formal letter authorizing the tribes’ or organizations’ consent to be listed on the amicus.  You can simply email Dan or Erin at NARF or any CILS office.

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TRIBAL ALERT: Addendum– Support for Amicus Brief

To All Tribal Leaders:

As an Addendum to the December 5, 2018, Tribal Alert, I have received several calls and emails from tribes with questions on what was needed to authorize a tribe’s consent to the amicus brief.

I contacted the NARF attorneys Dan Lewerenz at lewerenz@narf.org and Erin Dougherty Lynch at dougherty@narf.org, and they informed me of the following:

No formal resolution or letter from the Tribe is necessary unless the Tribe’s policies require that.  All we need is:

(1) An email with a statement from an authorized individual (chairman, president, attorney general, etc.) or body (council, executive, etc.) asking NARF to add the Tribe as a signatory on the brief; and

(2) The full and correct spelling of the Tribe’s name, as it should appear on the brief.

We hope this answers some of your questions; if not, please contact the NARF attorneys directly or Dorothy Alther at dalther@calindian.org or 760-746-8941, or any CILS office for more information.

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TRIBAL ALERT: Immediate Attention Needed – Support for Amicus Brief

To All Tribal Leaders:

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) need your help as signatories to an amicus brief in support of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that will filed with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On October 4, 2018, the federal court in the Northern District of Texas determined that the ICWA was unconstitutional and that the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ ICWA Regulations implementing the ICWA were invalid. (Brackeen et al. v. Zinke. Oct. 4, 2018, Case 4:17-CV-00868, (N. D. TX)) The defendants in the case are the Department of Interior and four intervening tribes: the Cherokee Nation, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Oneida Nation, and Quinault Indian Nation.

On December 3, 2018, the 5th Circuit Court issued a “stay” of the district court’s decision pending an appeal of the case on its merits. A “stay” prevents the district court’s ruling from taking effect in Texas, Louisiana and Indiana, the named plaintiff states in the case.

NCAI, NARF, AAIA, and NICWA are preparing an amicus brief and are seeking support from all tribal nations, inter-tribal organizations, and ICWA organizations by giving their approval to be a signatory on the brief. An “amicus” brief, also known as a “friend of the court brief,” is filed by non-parties to educate the court on their concerns and the serious impacts the court’s decision will have on them and their interests.

The tribal defendants filed their Notice of Appeal on November 25th, and the U.S. filed its Notice on December 3rd. The court has set a briefing schedule for the tribal defendants with their Opening Brief due December 31st which would make the amicus brief due January 7th. However, this schedule will most likely be modified since the filing of U.S.’s Notice of Appeal. The drafters of the amicus brief are hoping to have a draft ready for circulation by December 17th (tentatively). NARF will share with interested tribal nations and organizations a draft brief when it is ready and will keep them informed of all upcoming deadlines.

Any tribal nation, inter-tribal organization, and ICWA organization interested in signing on to the amicus brief can contact Dan Lewerenz at lewerenz@narf.org or Erin Dougherty Lynch at dougherty@narf.org at NARF. You can also contact Dorothy Alther at dalther@calindian.org or 760-746-8941, or any CILS office for more information.

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